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Nestle launches pea-based milk alternative under 'Wunda' brand

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ZURICH (Reuters) - Nestle has launched a new brand, "Wunda," to market a milk alternative made from yellow peas, the packaged food giant said on Wednesday, as it sought to further boost its presence in the fast-growing market for plant-based foods.

Milk and meat alternatives made from plants are popular with health- and environment-conscious consumers and are also gaining investor attention, as demonstrated by oat milk company Oatly's recent plans for an initial public offering.

Nestle's new product will be launched in three versions - original, unsweetened and chocolate - in France, the Netherlands and Portugal in the coming weeks, with a rollout in other European markets planned, the Swiss company said.

It said the product is carbon neutral, high in calcium, proteins and fiber, and suitable for drinking hot or cold, frothing or as an ingredient for cooking or baking. It was created in just six months, reflecting Nestle's ambition to speed up innovation to keep pace with new consumer trends.

"We created a new brand for this proposition so we need to have high expectations," Cedric Boehm, head of Nestle's dairy business in Europe and the Middle East, told reporters on a call, without giving further details.

It will be priced "at the heart of the market", he said.

Nestle said in February that sales of plant-based dairy alternatives had seen double-digit growth reaching more than 100 million Swiss francs ($109.41 million) last year.

($1 = 0.9140 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Bernadette Baum)